Greetings from Amsterdam and the European Cancer Congress. Yesterday I spent 3 hours glued to my chair in a full to overflowing prostate cancer session.
There’s a lot going on in lung cancer right now, which is pretty amazing when you consider only a couple of years ago we were still talking only chemotherapies and EGFR inhibitors.
Much of the new attention has been on the EML4-ALK translocation, the T790M mutation responsible for EGFR resistance as well as the possibility of improved survival with either MET or MEK inhibition. There are others, but these are the main ones that jump to mind.
Today, I want to focus on ALK+ lung cancer and what’s in store at ECCO at the weekend.
Check point immunotherapy is probably on everyone’s hot topic list in oncology at the moment and rightly so.
One of the key sessions I’m looking forward to at ECCO is the Saturday Lung Cancer Symposium on new therapeutic targets. It includes not only a presentation on PD-1 and PD-L1 Immune checkpoint antibodies, but also overviews of progress in several other pathways, namely PI3K-AKT-mTOR, RAS-RAF-MEK and ALK+/Hsp inhibitors. This should be an excellent session that allows a broad overview of many of the key areas of research in the disease.
Aside from a late breaker on the two-year ipilimumab data in metastatic melanoma, the check point abstracts I managed to find in the #ECC2013 program appear to be all posters. Here are my quick notes ahead of the presentations for Premium Content subscribers:
For many years, scientists have tried – and failed – to develop techniques to activate the body’s immune system against cancer. The majority of these immunotherapy approaches, especially vaccines, simply didn’t have enough potency, or were based on a weak target that had little impact on advanced disease. The rationale for vaccines in cancer prevention is much stronger, as we have seen with the HPV vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, for example. When given to patients with advanced disease, the large tumour burden is usually too much for them to overcome and the cancer wins.
Although the immunotherapy field in oncology has been largely a graveyard with millions of dollars wasted and lost, there have been some notable successes. US approvals include rituximab (and other similar CD20 targeted antibodies) in B-cell malignancies, the IMiDs (thalidomide, lenalidomide, pomalidomide) in multiple myeloma, and ipilimumab, a human cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA4) antibody in metastatic melanoma.
There are several interesting challenges with immunotherapies that must be overcome before successful therapeutics can be developed – Subscribers to Premium Content can login to read more below: